Ketogenic diet and ketamine infusion treatment to target chronic persistent eating disorder psychopathology in anorexia nervosa: a pilot study

This open-label pilot study (n=5) assessed the effects of six ketamine infusions on participants who had recovered from anorexia nervosa (AN) but had persisting eating disorders thoughts and behaviours. Prior to receiving six ketamine infusions over a 6 month period, participants adopted a therapeutic ketogenic diet. Though the length of the diet varied among participants, the group showed significant improvements on a number of commonly used scales to assess eating disorders.


Purpose: Anorexia nervosa (AN) is a severe psychiatric disorder, and shape and weight concerns are often chronic despite weight normalization. No specific treatments exist for those preoccupations that interfere with recovery and trigger relapse. A case study using a ketogenic diet followed by ketamine infusions led to sustained remission in one patient with chronic AN. Here we conducted an open-label trial to test whether this response could be replicated.

Methods: Five adults weight recovered from AN but with persistent eating disorder thoughts and behaviours adopted a therapeutic ketogenic diet (TKD) aimed at maintaining weight. After sustaining nutritional ketosis, participants received six ketamine infusions and were followed over 6 months.

Results: All participants completed the study protocol without significant adverse effects. Two participants maintained TKD for 8 weeks prior to ketamine infusions due to good behavioural response and remained on TKD. Three participants received TKD for 4 weeks prior to and during ketamine, then tapered off after the final infusion. The group showed significant improvements on the Clinical Impairment Assessment (p = 0.008), Eating Disorder Examination Questionnaire (EDEQ) Global score (p = 0.006), EDEQ-Eating Concerns (p = 0.005), EDEQ-Shape Concerns (p = 0.016), EDEQ-Weight Concerns (p = 0.032), Eating Disorders Recovery Questionnaire (EDRQ) Acceptance of Self and Body (0.027) and EDRQ-Social and Emotional Connection (p = 0.001). Weight remained stable, except for one participant who relapsed 4 months after treatment and off TKD.

Conclusion: This novel treatment appears to be safe and effective for adults with chronic AN-related psychopathology. The results from this open trial support that there are specific neurobiological underpinnings of AN that can be normalized using TKD and ketamine.”

Authors: Lori Calabrese, Barabara Scolnick, Beth Zupec-Kania, Caroline Beckwith, Kayla Costello & Guido K. W. Frank

Study details

Compounds studied

Topics studied
Eating Disorders

Study characteristics

5 Humans